Announcing the COMMUNIA 2010: University and Cyberspace Conference June 28-30

The NEXA Center for Internet & Society at the Politecnico di Torino and the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University are pleased to announce:

University and Cyberspace
Reshaping Knowledge Institutions for the Networked Age
28-30 June 2010, Torino, Italy

To learn more about the conference and to find out when registration opens, please subscribe to our general mailing list.

About the conference:

Universities are entrusted with the increasingly important responsibility of creating, sharing, and fostering use of knowledge on behalf of society, and to that end, are the recipients of tremendous investments of time, money, space, authority and freedom. Universities have embraced this role in diverse fashions, varying by tradition, period, and discipline, but we now ask them to go further. As we progress ever more deeply into a networked age, our knowledge institutions are faced with concomitant opportunities. They are challenged by society to become a driving force to create and disseminate knowledge – using innovative, effective, and dynamic approaches – derived from and for the networked world.

This broad social importance is paralleled within the gates of academe, as the Internet and related technologies are provoking unprecedented changes in the way universities can and must function, responding to the needs of so-called digital natives, the opportunities for information and knowledge sharing, and the demand for physical and virtual spaces that support these populations and activities. Students (and faculty) are increasingly immersed in technology, with different ideas about and expectations for these processes [and just about everything they do]. The core enterprises of the university are shifting massively due to the new capacity to create, process, and share information, scholarship, and knowledge. The importance of place and physical architecture are shifting to accommodate the new modes of university activity, including creation of resources that support interactions that are asynchronous, distributed, and self-organized. The discussion about open access publishing, the growth of a commons of knowledge, advanced forms of e-learning or platforms of collaboration and education are only the most visible manifestations of these tectonic shifts.

While each of these topics is a conference in itself, by bringing them together we aim to develop forward looking approaches to creating a future in which the challenges are opportunities not just in their immediate locus of impact, but form part of an integrated approach to the networked age, offering far reaching positive benefits. More specifically, we will ask: How is the role of universities as knowledge creating, sharing, and applying institutions going to change due to the Internet? How should universities use cyberspace to best implement their mission with respect to society? Taking into account the characteristics of the new generations of students, faculty and staff, how should the informational and the spatial (both physical and virtual) infrastructures of universities be shaped to improve learning, discovery, and engagement? What about the new opportunities to enhance the civic role of universities – who prepare people for citizenship and contribute to the public sphere – in our democratic societies?

The COMMUNIA 2010 International Conference will provide a venue for articulating possible answers to these and other questions, with the twofold objective of defining a shared vision of the future of universities as knowledge institutions and of identifying the main steps leading from vision to reality.

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